UK’s Largest Poem on The Royal Mile on National Poetry Day

The UK’s largest printed poem will be unveiled in Edinburgh on National Poetry Day (Thursday 8 October).

‘Spiral’, by Elizabeth Burns, will be featured on a 25 by 8 metre banner overlooking the city’s famous Royal Mile. The evocative short poem, inspired by the spinning motion of the potter’s wheel, was selected from a shortlist of five by a public online vote and will now remain on the Royal Mile until summer 2016.

The competition is part of the ‘Big Words’ project, a unique collaboration between the Scottish Poetry Library and Edinburgh’s New Waverley development. The poem has been printed onto a huge scaffolding banner covering the façade of the historic Sailor’s Ark building on the Canongate, currently being transformed as part of the area’s redevelopment.

The selection of ‘Spiral’ as the winning poem is especially poignant for friends and family of Elizabeth Burns – and for poetry admirers across the globe. The poet, who was a descendent of Robert Burns and was educated in Edinburgh, died of cancer in August this year aged 57.

Welcoming the launch of the Big Words project and the unveiling of Spiral, Robyn Marsack, Director of the Scottish Poetry Library said: “It’s wonderful to see such an inspiring poem towering over the Royal Mile, using great words to speak to hundreds of thousands of people walking up and down this famous street over the next 10 months.

“It’s also a fitting testament to the life and work of Elizabeth Burns who spent much of her life in Scotland, and was much loved by readers and writers across the UK. Her death was untimely but her words live on.”

She added: “We had a great response from the public in selecting the winning poem, with more than 1,000 votes logged by an online poll. ‘Spiral’ was the clear winner from a shortlist of five, gaining a third of all the total votes cast.”

Alison Burns, Elizabeth’s sister, said: “We’re so delighted that Elizabeth’s poem ‘Spiral’ has been chosen by public vote for this project. It’s a wonderful tribute to her and her work.

“One of the things I loved about my sister was the way she could turn simple every-day acts into ‘occasions to remember’ and I think this really come across in ‘Spiral’. It appears so simple on the page but still manages to connect to something much bigger and more profound.”

For the developers behind New Waverley, the Big Words project presented a unique opportunity to do something different as part of their redevelopment of the historic Sailor’s Ark building, which helped feed the city’s homeless before and after the Second World War.

Clive Wilding, New Waverley’s project director said: “The Royal Mile is a very special place, and we wanted to do something a little bit different with our scaffolding banner to reflect its iconic location. And what better than to use such beautifully constructed poetry to convey positive themes of change and growth, which reflects our shared vision behind New Waverley.”

The poem will remain in place on the Royal Mile during the redevelopment of the Sailor’s Ark, which will be complete by summer 2016. For more information on the Big Words project, visit

UK’s largest poem – by Elizabeth Burns – unveiled on Royal Mile banner